Earlier this week ABC-News ran a long story, complete with videos, interviews and a national map showing the location of recent shootings about gun violence. As far as I am concerned, this was the most detailed, comprehensive, honest and fairly-reported major media story on gun violence which I have ever seen. And in case you don’t know, I have been closely following the gun violence debate, argument, discussion, whatever you want to call it, for more than fifty years. That’s right. I first started paying attention this to issue when went to North Carolina and helped my great-Uncle Ben manufacture a small 22-caliber revolver in 1955. So when I say that I have been involved in guns for more than fifty years, I mean what I say.
The ABC story is remarkable in many ways. First is the choice of title, using the words ‘gun violence’ in a straight and unvarnished way. Know what? You’ll never see or hear the words ‘gun’ and ‘violence’ linked together by Gun-nut Nation or its loudspeakers such as the NRA. Because to that bunch, guns aren’t violent; people are violent, and the real value of gun ownership is that people with guns can protect themselves from violent crime, violent terrorists, even perhaps violent law enforcement, although Gun-nut Nation isn’t exactly sure how to handle all those shootings of unarmed inner-city residents by cops, even though every law-abiding, God-fearing American should be, indeed must be walking around with a gun.
Once you get past the title of the story, you are presented with a map of the United States showing the location of shootings throughout the United States, with more than 350 gun deaths and more than 1,200 shooting incidents occurring between June 24th and July 4th, which is about average for any 11-day period during the current year. This data is drawn from the remarkable website and aggregating engine known as the Gun Violence Archive, and it’s about time that major media outlets began to recognize and promote the work of Mark Bryant and his energetic and talented GVA staff.
The story not only gives the GVA project its due, but also is built on discussions with other important Gun Violence Prevention experts, like Harvard’s Cathy Barber, who has built an impressive program to deal with gun suicide, another type of gun violence that claims more than 20,000 lives every year. When it comes to the use of guns in suicides, Gun-nut Nation of course will tell you there’s no connection between suicide rates and gun ownership, citing the fact that there are other countries without gun access that register similar or higher suicide rates than ours. Meanwhile, this link will take you to a listing of a dozen studies which clearly indicate that guns increase suicide risk, but since when did Gun-nut Nation base any of their arguments on science or facts?
In 1986, less than 40% of Americans stated that they had read or heard anything about what was called the ‘greenhouse effect.’ Know what the percentage was in 2007? 91%. Does this mean that 91% of Americans believe that global warming is a threat? No, but what it does demonstrate is that an awareness about global warming has become part of the general culture, it was now an accepted world view.
I believe that the key to building a society that no longer suffers from gun violence must first begin and ultimately rest on a cultural shift which makes a phrase like ‘gun violence’ as normal and as much a part of the everyday lexicon as the phrase ‘global warming’ has become. And the fact that a national media outlet like ABC-News would run a major story on gun violence based largely on the work of the Gun Violence Archive tells me that this fundamental cultural change may be starting to take place. And it’s a change which I have never previously witnessed and I have been involved with guns for a very, very long time.